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Universal's patent applications offer a glimpse at future theme park attractions

December 9, 2016, 5:07 PM · Universal Parks & Resorts is working on several new rides system concepts that could power unique attractions in its upcoming park developments.

The plans were revealed in patent applications published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office in the past two months. Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal found several of these applications on the USPTO website, so I ran a search to take a look at the patent files for myself. If you want to see all of Universal's recent patent applications, search for "Universal City Studios" for "Applicant Name" on http://appft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html.

One application for a "Simulator Ride" is for a flying theater attraction without ride vehicles, a floor, or even seats. The theater mechanism would have six degrees of freedom, allowing a ridiculous range of motion for riders, who would be mounted on ride support arms in a manner that reminded me of those roasted chickens you see on a rotisserie in the grocery store deli.

Simulator Ride

Hey, don't those riders look like Iron Man? Yep, the patent application includes options for helmets and chest plates that would include physical effects and other show elements, simulating the experience of a superhero in flight. And, of yeah, the theater mechanism could be attached to a track, freeing riders from watching just one screen in front of them and allowing them to proceed through a dark ride environment.

Another application is for a "Drift Racer," a two-person car where the front wheels' position is fixed on a track, even though the car's motor powers the wheels to move the car. The rear wheels, though, turn to simulated drifting around curves. If you're thinking real-life "Mario Kart" here, give yourself a mushroom.

Drift Racer

I also thought of Mario Kart when reading the application for a "Boom Coaster," a roller coaster where the passenger car would be held by a boom extending from the coaster track. [Update: Or maybe I should have thought of Donkey Kong, given the comments below.] There would be a simulated track surface under the passenger car, hiding the coaster mechanism underneath. This would allow for a wide range of movement and high speeds on what would look like a track ride, but with a light ride vehicle that would not need to include any drive mechanics.

Boom Coaster

The other two recent patent applications I looked at were for water park rides. The "Functional Mat Racer" works as an interactive water slide, where the rider's mat could light up to illuminate a darkened tunnel or engage in other interactive special effects during the ride. The range of effects include playing selected music tracks during the ride (a la Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit), or displaying colors to let you know what position you are in relative to other racers on the course.

The final application is for a "Slide Entry System" that looks much like the drop boxes on slides such as Ihu's Breakaway Falls at Aquatica. But this one includes a provision for the box to partially fill with water before dropping the rider. This sounds like some sort of sick Houdini water torture trick, but could be a huge hit among fans who want to feel the additional thrill of a potential drowning before plummeting down a high-speed water slide.

Okay, now it's time to play theme park designer. What would you like to see Universal do with these ride systems?

Replies (20)

December 9, 2016 at 5:26 PM · How would the simulator ride work with a chest piece and helmet like that? It would somehow have to be adjustable to fit people of all different sizes
December 9, 2016 at 5:51 PM · DRIFT as in Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift
December 9, 2016 at 7:51 PM · More ways to be hung and tossed around. I wish Universal's rides are not so turbulent. It just isn't as much fun after a really bad toss.
December 9, 2016 at 8:04 PM · I'm going to go out on a limb and say all the dry park attractions will involve a lot of screens. Why do I feel like I'm going to right?
December 9, 2016 at 8:24 PM · So much negativity here...
and then when Disney has patents- "Wow! So innovative!" ect...
December 9, 2016 at 9:05 PM · Disney needs to just write Uni that check to buy out all marvel properties and use it in Disney parks
December 9, 2016 at 9:18 PM · That simulator ride looks uncomfortable and unnecessary to me. I can't imagine it working properly without utilizing VR, and it seems that it would be cheaper and simpler to simply build a flying roller coaster with integrated VR technology.

The Drift Racer, however, is another matter. I'd be willing to bet that is an early concept for the highly rumored Mario Kart ride. Looking at what's in front of the passengers, it looks very much like the set up from Double Dash...the front person drives and the back person uses items. Of all of these concepts, I've got a strong feeling this is likely the first we will see brought to reality.

December 9, 2016 at 11:21 PM · "I'm going to go out on a limb and say all the dry park attractions will involve a lot of screens."

If you're referring to the upcoming Avatar and Star Wars rides at Disney, you would be right on the money.

December 10, 2016 at 1:37 AM · The mine cart is clearly a Donkey King Country ride.
December 10, 2016 at 2:09 AM · The boom arm patent looks a lot like a DK Mine Cart :-)
December 10, 2016 at 3:45 AM · Maybe the Iron Man like ride is going to be a Mega Man ride, known as Rockman in Japan. The harnas has a resemblance of a flying coaster. The one at Sea World is quite comfortable and it would be great to stand up.

The Mario Cart one has me most exited. Mario Cart Double Dash was the best co-op Mario Cart game imho so this would be perfect. Put an augmented reality screen as a windscreen in there and project the powerup on the track and it would be perfect.

December 10, 2016 at 7:16 AM · The purpose of these patents is to lock up the IP, although I could see the Drift Racer used in the new Nintendo Land.
December 10, 2016 at 12:10 PM · Intriguing designs. But how come they never used the kuka arm again?
December 10, 2016 at 4:43 PM · The drift racer could work as a Fast & Furious ride, too. They keep making the movies.
December 10, 2016 at 5:47 PM · Can that Iron Man ride be Megaman?
December 11, 2016 at 6:30 AM · I'm not sure how feasible this would be, but flying theatre with vr would be really cool...
December 12, 2016 at 8:13 AM · Unfortunately, Mega Man is owned by Capcom, not Nintendo. As Nintendo doesn't really have any superhero IP, I would imagine the robot patent is for a ride in Orlando.
December 12, 2016 at 8:15 AM · Y'all, Megaman isn't a Nintendo property
December 12, 2016 at 1:59 PM · Megaman is included as a character in Nintendo's Smash Bros. games. That game is published by Nintendo. I won't pretend to know the details in the Universal/Nintendo deal, but I wouldn't discount the inclusion of Megaman in a Universal park just because the IP is owned by Capcom.

And if that isn't a mine cart coaster in that patent, I'll eat 100 bananas!

December 12, 2016 at 2:06 PM · Megaman was licensed to Nintendo for Smash Bros, and only Smash Bros, by Capcom. He has nothing to do with the Universal/Nintendo deal. Not to mention Megaman isn't very popular or relevant these days. Not compare to the dozens of characters from Nintendo proper that Universal could draw from

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